'It never leaves me': Toronto man testifies on Boeing crash that killed entire family
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019 2:53PM EDT
A Toronto man whose entire family was killed when a Boeing 737 Max 8 jet crashed in Ethiopia earlier this year accused the airplane manufacturer of shameful behaviour and demanded more oversight in the aviation industry.
Speaking before a U.S. congressional panel on Thursday, Paul Njoroge described in heartbreaking detail the toll his wife, three young children, and mother-in-law’s deaths have had on him.
“It never leaves me that my family’s flesh is there in Ethiopia, mixed with the soil, and jet fuel, and pieces of the aircraft,” he said. “I miss them every minute of every day.”
Njoroge explained how he was unable to celebrate Canada Day back home because he is consumed by thoughts of that March 10 crash, which killed all 157 people aboard shortly after takeoff.
“I think about their last six minutes a lot,” he told the panel. “My wife and my mom-in-law knew they were going to die. They had to somehow comfort the children during those final moments knowing they were all their last. I wish I was there with them.”
He went on to criticize Boeing’s explanation that “foreign pilot error” was to blame for the Ethiopian tragedy and a prior one involving a Boeing 737 Max plane in Indonesia in October 2018 that killed 189 people.
“This distracted from correcting the root causes of the crashes and it’s an insult to humanity,” he said.
Njoroge said the families demand the Boeing 737 Max jets, which have been grounded worldwide since the second crash, be re-certified as a new plane. He also said the families would like pilots to undergo simulator training for the jet’s flight control software, instead of the computer training Boeing has suggested.
In an interview with CTV News Channel following his testimony, Njoroge said he believes there were “weaknesses” in the internal oversight processes that led to the Boeing 737 Max aircrafts’ design flaws.
“You wonder why that plane was certified to fly,” he said from Washington on Thursday.
He said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should be led by safety engineers and Congress should increase the regulatory body’s budget so that it can overhaul its aviation safety system.
On a personal level, Njoroge said he’d like to see Boeing’s CEO and executive team resign from their positions and take responsibility for the deaths of his family and the 341 other people in those two crashes.
Following the Ethiopia crash, Boeing’s leadership team publicly apologized to the families of the victims of both tragedies. Njoroge, however, said he has yet to receive a personal apology from anyone at Boeing.
“For them, it’s for commercial reasons. They issued that apology for commercial reasons,” he said. “They’ve not done it and I don’t think they feel compelled to do it. They don’t have concerns for the families of the victims.”
The day before Njoroge testified, Boeing announced it had set aside US$50 million to give directly to the victims’ families as compensation for the loss of their loved ones.
As difficult as it was to share his grief in front of a congressional panel, Njoroge said he felt compelled to do it.
“It was very difficult for me, but it’s very important for all of the families of the victims,” he explained. “This is what my wife would want me to do so I had to do it for her.”